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Society

Greek Workers Use May Day to Strike, Protest Energy Costs

ATHENS – Overwhelmed with soaring costs for electricity – along with food and other essentials – Greek workers on the May Day workers holiday took to the streets in demonstrations.

Public transport stopped and ferries stayed docked, an inconvenience to tourists that have begun to arrive in big numbers, the workers angry about the skyrocketing costs, worsened by the effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and near-record inflation.

Police estimates that some 10,000 people marched in central Athens and gathered outside the Greek Parliament over the cost of living that they say is becoming unaffordable, reported Reuters.

“It is very tough, and every day it gets tougher for workers. We will fight it, because the working class cannot survive any more,” Katerina Dekaristou, a teacher, told the news agency.

It seems that Greek workers can’t catch a break. First was the economic and austerity crisis from 2010-18 that brought big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings.

Then just as a slow recovery was beginning came the pandemic and lockdowns and workers off the job for months at a time, relying on government subsidies to keep going.

The conservative government has subsidized power and gas bills, putting up some 4 billion euros ($4.21 billion) for households since September, 2021 but the energy crisis is worsening.

The minimum wage was also increased by 50 euros ($53) to 713 euros

It has also increased the minimum wage to 713 euros ($751.30) a month from May 1, the second increase this year.

But pay levels are still low, and can’t keep pace with higher power bills that rose 189 percent in a year, and the major rival SYRIZA – which broke a vow to raise the minimum wage while in power – criticized the government for not making it even higher.

“Everything has risen. Electricity has risen, gas has risen, necessities have risen. It’s chaotic. We can’t get paid fast enough to pay something else. We are trying with every means to cut out what is (not) necessary to pay these things,” Pantelis Iordanou, a car body painter, told the news agency.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called on the European Union for joint action, including a cap on gas prices, but he didn’t get it and said his government will go it alone.

Even if the EU still doesn’t provide energy subsidies across the bloc, Greece’s government is set to announce more measures in May to help households deal with the rising prices, spokesman Giannis Oikonomou told Greek TV.

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